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Free Radic Biol Med. 2001 Mar 15;30(6):583-94.

A possible emerging role of phytochemicals in improving age-related neurological dysfunctions: a multiplicity of effects.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, United States Department of Agriculture, Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


It is rare to see a day pass in which we are not told through some popular medium that the population is becoming older. Along with this information comes the "new" revelation that as we enter the next millennium there will be increases in age-associated diseases (e.g., cancer, cardiovascular disease) including the most devastating of these, which involve the nervous system (e.g., Alzheimer's disease [AD] and Parkinson's disease [PD]). It is estimated that within the next 50 years approximately 30% of the population will be aged 65 years or older. Of those between 75 and 84 years of age, 6 million will exhibit some form of AD symptoms, and of those older than 85 years, over 12 million will have some form of dementia associated with AD. What appears more ominous is that many cognitive changes occur even in the absence of specific age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Common components thought to contribute to the manifestation of these disorders and normal age-related declines in brain performance are increased susceptibility to long-term effects of oxidative stress (OS) and inflammatory insults. Unless some means is found to reduce these age-related decrements in neuronal function, health care costs will continue to rise exponentially. Thus, it is extremely important to explore methods to retard or reverse age-related neuronal deficits as well as their subsequent, behavioral manifestations. Fortunately, the growth of knowledge in the biochemistry of cell viability has opened new avenues of research focused at identifying new therapeutic agents that could potentially disrupt the perpetual cycle of events involved in the decrements associated with these detrimental processes. In this regard, a new role in which certain dietary components may play important roles in alleviating certain disorders are beginning to receive increased attention, in particular those involving phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables.

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